We teach our audiences

Sometimes while performing an audience or volunteer will act differently than we expect or want them to. This behavior isn’t necessarily good or bad but good spectator management is the key to a successful performance. Anything that can happen on stage, will happen.

I believe that most of the time audiences will react in a certain way based on the expectations that you’ve established through your personality.

As an example, imagine a children’s performer presenting a routine where a child volunteer is selected to be on stage and the routine is structured so that the child disobeys the magician to the delight and joy of everyone in the audience. Each time the child does something that the magician “doesn’t want him to do” the audience bursts out laughing. What does this teach the audience? That they can you do whatever they want on stage and it will be funny! Imagine the next routine in the show where the magician selects a volunteer to be on stage, and the kid disobeys the magician “for real” this time. Maybe throwing something that they were supposed to hold, or dropping something intentionally. To the child it may be funny, but it may disrupt the flow of that particular routine. In this case the performer has unintentionally taught the audience how to behave in a way that is undesired.

With experience you learn how to deal with these situations, but the first step is to be aware of WHY they’re happening.

Here’s a great example of this concept. Here’s a clip of the amazing Justin Flom is performing on the Ellen Show.

In this clip Ellen was offered to select a cookie, under the assumption that she was supposed to do something with it for the trick. But at the end of the routine you can see her confusion when she’s left with a cookie that she didn’t do anything with. This taught her that when offered something, that it isn’t part of the trick.

You can see this psychology in the next routine when Justin offers her a mint. She assumes that it isn’t going to be part of the effect so she pops it into her mouth. Thankfully it was inconsequential to the effect, but it demonstrates quite clearly exactly how our actions teach our audiences how to behave.

What are your actions teaching your audience? Think about these things when watching video recordings of your show. You can either change what is causing the audience to behave in an undesired way, or anticipate it and find new moments within that structure to entertain your audience.